I’ve had my fill of birthday presents and cupcakes for another year. Two weeks after my third-grader’s ninth birthday, my kindergarten baby turned six last week. We celebrated at Build-a-Bear with a sweet group of girlfriends, and I was reminded once again what a blessing it is to watch my children grow up.
Of course I know as moms we do much more than just “watch” our children grow; we are actively involved in making it happen. Yet we can get so absorbed in the everyday responsibilities that we forget to stop and capture the moments. We neglect to truly “watch.” Until one day we wake up and find a little miss nine-year-old asking if she can buy a video camera with her birthday money so she can create her own YouTube show.
How did we get here? Will the next nine years fly just as fast?
Today, in honor of my girls’ birthdays, I’ve decided to share a classic Time Out post, first published here in 2013. The ages may have changed, but the sentiment still rings true. Whatever age your babies are, may you embrace the chance today to train them up—and to love them just as they are.
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I’ve discovered a crazy thing about kids. They just keep growing up.
Today I’m baking brownies for my firstborn’s sixth birthday treat. Next week, baby sister turns three. I call this “birthday season” in our family, and every year it melts my heart to a nostalgic puddle.
To me, birthdays aren’t just childhood milestones. They’re a chance to shout, “Yay, God!” for creating each daughter unique, beautiful, and according to his perfect plan. More than that, I celebrate my girls’ birthdays as a type of anniversary for me—(1) the day I entered motherhood, clueless, bidding a shocking farewell to my old friends Sleep and Dangly Earrings; and (2) the day my heart busted at the seams to welcome baby #2 with first-round love and, frankly, still a few remnants of cluelessness.
Six years may not be much in the course of a lifetime. But in this span I’ve seen a seven-pound wrinkled bundle transform into a lanky, ponytailed kindergartener who reads chapter books and chomps bubble gum. Six years is a lifetime for her. Six years flew by without permission. Six years stood painfully still.
Soon, six years will be just a memory.
And that’s what slays me. My girls—who they are today, those precious faces, those sweet giggly voices and petite sticky palms clutching my fingers—are not who they will be tomorrow. They’re always growing, always changing. Always slipping away.
Last week, we made a birthday poster for my daughter’s school. The teacher asked us to glue a baby picture beside a current photo. When I compared the two faces, tears stung my eyes. I studied those rosy baby cheeks and thought, I’ll never get that little person back. She is someone different now. Someone even more delightful, more beloved with each passing season, yes. But a private space in my heart aches when I realize all of her earlier days are just snapshots en route to graduation.
It’s tempting to wish I could suspend time, to ensure my daughters will always love me unconditionally like they do today, always sing to Jesus with innocent faith, and always hold the promise of an unblemished future as they do right now, this moment.
But then I cruise through Proverbs and remember—that’s not the point of parenting.
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
I know this verse. It’s a staple in my arsenal of encouragement. Yet when was the last time I really unpacked it?
Train a child. My Bible notes say another word for “train” here is “start.” Start a child in the way he should go. Eighteen years in my house are just a launch pad. The ultimate purpose of parenting is to equip, teach, love—then let the children go. Is anybody else weepy just thinking about that?
When he is old. Only God knows how many days we have on Earth, but chances are my babies won’t just grow out of their kindergarten shoes—they’ll grow old. Which means they’ll build their own families and establish their own legacies, founded largely on the start that my husband and I gave them. That is a huge responsibility for a parent. But it’s also a tremendous privilege.
He will not turn from it. The truth is, my children aren’t the only people growing up. So am I. I’m not the same person I was six years ago, either. But isn’t that the beauty of the Christian life? There is a way we should go, which suggests forward movement, drawing nearer to God. I want that for my kids as much as I want it for myself.
So today, I’ll embrace the bubble gum stage and look forward to tomorrow, for the chance to see more of who God designed my girls to become. I can already tell there are some benefits to parenting older children. Dangly Earrings are back in my life. Sleep and I are still estranged. But that is a post for another time.